Monday, June 12

Tsunami Recovery in Thailand | Part 9: TSUNAMI TOURISM

(Part 9 of a 12 part series)

Five weeks after the Tsunami hit, Sishir Chang went to Thailand to see how the people there were recovering and to see how those concerned could help. The following is the ninth installment of his experiences in the aftermath of one of the world'’s most devastating natural disasters. Originally published in the Southasian, the article is being republished here, with previously unpublished photographs, with the author's permission.


With so much attention being paid to the tsunami many of the Thais sought to capitalize on it. At many souvenir stalls there were tsunami VCD’s and DVD’s for sale while T-shirt shops sold tsunami t-shirts featuring the Hokusai woodblock print of The Wave. At some places they offered to sell pictures from the tsunami such as of a man running away from a wave breaking through the tops of palm trees, a car on top of a building and piles of debris and bodies washing up along a beach. On the ride in from the airport my driver even offered me a tsunami day package to go see the worst hit place by the tsunami. He even added that lunch and shopping stops would be included.

While it seems crass to commercially take advantage of the tsunami, the residents of Phuket are suffering very much economically because of it. Several Thais that I spoke to said they’re getting very little aid from the government or from major relief agencies. Maem a cabana vendor in Patong was typical, her business had been wiped out in the tsunami and since then she had only received 2,000 Baht (around $50) from the government and nothing from aid organizations. The most aid she had received was 200 Euros from a German for saving his life. Vhola Nathku, an Indian tailor, was rebuilding his store with insurance money but had received nothing from the government, both Thai and Indian. He also said that practically all of the reconstruction being done in Patong was from insurance. A few other Indian tailors I spoke to couldn’t even count on insurance and they called themselves “tsunami refugees” since they had no livelihood after their shop was destroyed and were left hoping to find some other work. The desperation brought on by the tsunami had caused some businesses to include a direct appeal to aid to potential customers like a sign at a massage parlor that said, “Massage; Please to subsidize victim tsunami to pay off debts.”

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